In the end, the four of them ended up buying Holographic Lenses. Allan, Rakna, and Nyx picked contacts that were made in such a way that it would literally become a part of their eyes, they wouldn’t even need to take them out. On the other hand, Flavia decided to go with glasses, which gave a certain boost to her teacher aura.
After that particular shop, Rakna stopped at a few other shops. He bought things such as blankets, lighters, food, all sorts of tools, spare clothes, and a few secondary weapons. Compared to the Holographic Lenses, these weren’t very expensive.
So, after an hour of shopping, he only spent around 800 Talys in total. He obviously put his new possessions inside his spatial ring. Or else he wouldn’t have bothered; he didn’t want to buy things he’d have to carry around 24/7.
Then, the group finally came to a stop as they found a small noodle stall ran by an old bearded dwarf. Other than Pronos, they hadn’t eaten that much at the buffet so they decided to give it a try. After paying ten Talys each through a System window, their bowls were quickly served.
“Fuck, this is good,” Allan uttered as he slurped the long string. “Totally new flavors too. Never tasted a sauce like this.”
“Indeed,” Nyx nodded. Her table manners were flawless compared to the three others. “Although I have eaten many luxurious dishes in my life, I have to say, this is delicious.”
“There is something about simple but well-made dishes that just never gets old,” Flavia said.
Rakna hummed in agreement while eating. Even after eating an entire chicken, he still felt like he could eat ten times more.
“I’m happy you like it,” the old dwarf said with a smile. His stall was located in a pretty quiet area and currently, his only customers were the four in front of him. This was one of the best parts of having a street stall for the old dwarf. Since he had just a few customers at a time, he could always chat with them about the food.
“Say, old man, what can you tell us about this city? We’re kinda new here,” Allan said.
“Oh, so you four are new Hosts, huh?” He said with a nod. “Let’s see… First, this city is very old. It’s as old as the Plateau in fact. The very first Hosts thousands of years ago made the foundations for it and it evolved until this point. It became a massive hotspot over the years. There are a lot of people living here and the traffic makes business boom. This is the second biggest city across every Plateau but I can assure you that we’re the most technologically advanced.”
“I have been wondering until now, but how big are we talking about?” Nyx asked. “Even while we were standing on those elevated platforms, we couldn’t see the end of the cityscape.”
The old dwarf laughed lightly. “Of course. If you want to see it, you would need to travel hundreds of miles in one single direction. But you can take the underground train for that. You will get there eventually since every new Host needs to go out into the wilderness to ascend Plateaus.”
“Oh?” Rakna’s interest was picked. “So, there is something out there that we will need?”
The old man chuckled. “Sorry, sonny. I can’t reveal too much. You will be filled in at the Pavilion.”
“Sir, do you mind if I ask a more ‘personal’ question?” Flavia was the next one to inquire something and the dwarf looked at her. “Though, I have to admit I’m not aware if it’s something normal to ask or not.”
“What is it, young lady?”
“Are you a Host?”
The dwarf first blinked then laughed. “Hahaha, no. No, I’m afraid not. I’m one of the ‘Locals’. I’ve met some Hosts who called us NPCs if that helps you.”
Rakna snorted. “Those are probably dead by now or had a very rough awakening.”
“Hm? Why would you say that?” The dwarf asked confusedly.
“NPC is the abbreviation for Non-Player Character. It’s game jargon. In other words, those people you met were taking you as nothing more than a game feature. Those are signs of foolishness and self-pretense,” Rakna replied.
“I see… That explains a few things,” the dwarf said with a nod. “I was never told what it meant until now.”
“I’m confused though. Anyone with a functioning brain should be able to tell this isn’t some stupid kid game. I wonder how people can get that delusional sometimes,” Allan shook his head.
“Now, now, youth can often be a bit misled. Nothing we can blame them for. Younglings like you are rarer if you ask me. And, maybe, it’s because of this,” he said and snapped his fingers. Instantly, a window appeared in front of the group’s eyes.
❮ ◈ ❯
Old Wang, The Noodle Store Owner, offers you a Quest.
Objective: Finish eating your meal.
Rewards: 5 Experience Points
Do you accept?
❮ ◈ ❯
“Nice. So, you can give quests to Hosts, huh?” Allan unhesitatingly accepted the quest. It was free experience after all.
“This is probably why even the weaker Locals are left alone by Hosts,” Old Wang added. “We are not really mistreated since each one of us is in essence a good opportunity to get rewards.”
“Wait, there are no rules to the quests you give? For this one, you’re giving us experience points for just eating… You must have a limitation of some sort, right?”
Old Wang nodded. “You’re right. First of all, I can’t give quests more than once a week. Secondly, the rewards must be provided by me. Even experience points. Like you, we Locals have a System. Though it’s very minimal in comparison. The only thing we have access to is our Level. We have absolutely no control over our attributes and skills and the only way for us to get stronger is through pure training.”
“So, wait, you’re giving us your own Exp right now?” Allan was surprised. “Are you sure it’s fine?”
“Don’t worry, sonny. I can get that amount back easily. Even if I’m a bit lacking, I can still beat up a few monsters and even small things like making use of your proficiencies can give you Exp. For example, if I invent a new dish with my Cooking proficiency, I will get rewarded with a nice amount of experience. You can get the same result by coming up with new battle moves too.”
“Uh, cool. Thanks for the info, old man.”
Meanwhile, Rakna had silently cast an Appraisal on the old man and was forced to hide the shock he felt.
❮ ◈ ❯
Name: Wang Faezi
Age: 96 | Level: 123
Affiliation: First Plateau
Titles: The Noodle Store Owner, The Hidden Master Blacksmith
Strength: 50 | Endurance: 30
Speed: 10 | Dexterity: 70
Intelligence: 30 | Luck: 2
- Blacksmithing (Lv.29)
- Hammer-Mastery (Lv.12)
- Cooking (Lv. Ex)
- Mana Control (Lv. Ex)
Metal Magic (Lv. Max)
Unique or Racial Traits:
- Hyper Sensitivity to Mechanical Movements.
- Hyper Affinity to Metal Working.
Note: Wang Faezi is the last living member of a lost Dwarven Clan. He has stayed hidden from the world for the most part of his life, training in his blacksmithing skills. He also has a passion for cooking and uses it as a distraction when he needs inspiration for his forging.
❮ ◈ ❯
Inwardly, Rakna only had one reaction, ‘…how in the flying fuck is this ‘lacking’?’ The old man’s status was way beyond their current selves. He even had one Ascended Skill and one Demi-God skill on the verge of reaching its limit.
Rakna stared at the old dwarf from the corner of his eyes. He seemed to be completely oblivious of the Appraisal that had been cast on him. Rakna’s suspicions were quickly answered by Alexa who saw fit to intervene.
[Locals cannot sense analysis skills without the use of a special Item, Skill, or Magic Ability. They generally have a small resistance against them as well. That is why you were able to see much information even with your level disparity.]
[Also, may I add something, Rakna?]
‘I believe I already answered that question. What do you want to say?’
[I suggest you keep a connection to this Local. Blacksmiths are very significant to a lot of people. This dwarf will most likely be able to reach Divine Rank if given the time. Even high-level Hosts would wish to be acquainted with such a Master.]
‘I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks for the tip, Alexa.’
[You’re welcome, Rakna.]
“Oh yeah, I was thinking, teach, you got the Soul Hunter title, right? What does it do?”
Rakna perked up. He didn’t know how the conversation had evolved to that point but he also was curious.
“How to explain…” Flavia mused. “Essentially, it gives me a sort of mana bank. The bank is equal to 10% of my mana pool and for every enemy that I kill, one soul will turn into one stored mana point. The best thing about it is that I can use it as a substitute source of energy for my telekinesis. It even says that it can replace stamina when it comes to it.”
“Damn, that’s good.”
“What about yours?” Rakna followed. “The Crowned Seedling title.”
“Well, mine is simple in comparison. It gives me two ‘Volatile Attribute Points’. At least, that’s what they called it. From what I understood, I can affect those points wherever and whenever I want.”
“What do you mean?”
“I believe he’s talking about attribute points that can be unassigned at will to be put into other attributes instead,” Old Wang answered. “I remember hearing about it in passing.”
“That’s a very good effect actually,” Nyx commented. “You could take someone by surprise if you use it well. That could also very well save your life if you concentrate them on something like speed or endurance.”
“Uh, true… I didn’t think of it like that,” Allan shrugged.
After ten more minutes of idle chatter, the group finished their meal and Old Wang’s quest updated instantly and gave them five experience each.
“See you, old man. It was fun,” Allan said as he stood up with everyone else.
“Do you have an HL number perhaps?” Rakna then asked. HL was the common abbreviation people used for the Holographic Lenses.
“Yes, of course. I can give you my number. Let’s keep in touch. I have a feeling that you four will do great things in the future,” Old Wang said with a smile and before they knew it, their lenses were already registering a number coming from an external source.
‘Save it under Old Wang,’ Rakna said inwardly to Alexa who was the one who handled the HL. It seemed that the System AI’s had a lot more uses than he anticipated.
“We’ll come back once in a while,” Rakna said. “It might be good to have a place to relax in the First Plateau. As long as we don’t die, that is.”
Old Wang laughed. “Indeed. This is probably something that the System will tell you enough that you’ll get sick of it but, I’ll say it anyway; survive well, kiddos.”
Rakna waved his hand over his shoulder as he walked away with the other three. When they were out of sight, Old Wang chuckled and closed his stall’s counter before exiting it. The second he put a foot outside of it, the entire stall disappeared.
“Phew,” he sighed while tapping his back. “Another day that passes…” He muttered then looked at the night sky for a moment. “I’m in a good mood this evening. Maybe I’ll forge a few blades then go to bed,” he chuckled and went back home.